I run another website for The Blaydon Writers and some time ago, I received an email from Margaret, an expat, who despite living in Australia since the age of twelve still has fond memories of the Northeast. She was asking for the recipe for coconut haystacks. I sent her a very good recipe supplied by Stella. However at the time it struck me that it wasn’t the same as the one my mother used. So on my next visit I asked my Mum for her version. She wrote it out for me on the back of an old envelope, I put it in my pocket, promptly forgot all about it and only found it this week
I was a member of the Blaydon writers group and for my sins, I also ran their website. And on that site Coconut haystack must have been one of the most popular recipes of all time – we got dozens of requests for the recipe each month. So when Heather Speakman of North Yorkshire sent in an email with her auntie Rita’s own recipe for haystacks, I asked and was given permission to use the recipe on both sites. Now I know we already have one recipe for coconut haystacks. But take a look at this one it is sligtly different and sound delicious.
Auntie Rita’s Coconut Haystacks.
6oz Caster Sugar
6oz Dessicated Coconut
Two Egg Whites
Method Whisk the egg whites until stiff
mix together the sugar and coconut and then fold into the egg whites.
Form into small ball-shapes with clean hands (about the size of a golf ball)
stick half a glace cherry on top.
Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and cook in a moderate oven
(I have a fan-assisted electric oven and baked them on 180f) for 20-25 minutes.
When I was a lad, Sunday was the day that the relatives came to tea and as I have mentioned before, my mum used to put on a spread, all of it home made. In those days most people just didn’t have the money to buy shop bought, biscuits, fancy cakes and pies. Instead they made the pennies stretch by baking their own. Mind it was a little easier then as most of our mothers didn’t work or those that did only worked part of the day, which left them some free time to bake.
Anyway enough of the waffle, I’ll get back to what I was saying. Mum used to do all this baking and the table was filled with, plate pies, both sweet and savoury, scones, biscuits little jam and lemon curd tarts and more. Now I can’t say that they were my favourites, because I liked just about everything on the table, but put it this way, I always ate three or four of those little lemon curd tarts.
Christmas time is here again and after lunch on Christmas day, when the dishes are washed and put away, we, the grow ups, will sit and have a good old natter. The older children will be quiet, except for the occasional grunt as they play their Xbox’s and Gameboy’s and the two young one’s will fuss happily over their life-like dolls and push them about in their new prams. Later when the turkey has had time to digest, the kettle will go on and out will come the Scottish shortbread biscuits and the plates of sweet mince pies. This is my cue to regale them – or bore them to death – with a little bit of mince pie history.
In medieval times the forerunner of today’s mince pies, was somewhat larger and contained a mixture of minced meats of various kinds and fruits. Pies could be kept for 2 months in the cold weather and were seen as an alternative to salting or smoking meats. At some point in the 16th century the mince pie became something of a speciality at Christmas time. This tradition continued until the mid17th century when Oliver Cromwell and his puritan council, who looked upon Christmas as a pagan festival, decided to ban the guilty pleasure of mince pies on Christmas day.
Despite Cromwell and the puritans, mince pies survived, but by the 18th century the content if not the size had changed. Less meat was used and suet was added to the fruit and by the 19th century there was no meat content at all. Today the small individual pies we eat, contain sweet mincemeat and spices, although I am led to believe that there are some suet pies still made.
If you wish to make your own, the recipe is below. But remember, it is a tradition to stir the filling in a clockwise direction to ensure good luck.
F. Watson. December 2008
12oz of sweet mincemeat.
7oz plain flour
1½ oz of golden caster sugar
2½ oz of ground almonds
4½ oz of unsalted butter (diced)
1 large egg (beaten)
Milk to glaze
Place the flour, sugar and ground almonds into a bowl,
Rub in the butter until the mixture look like breadcrumbs,
Now slowly stir in the beaten egg.
Bring the mixture together, using your hands,
wrap in clingfilm and chill for an hour.
Put the sweet mince meat into a bowl and stir to ensure even distribution
Lightly butter a 12 hole bun tin.
Rollout the pastry thinly, on a floured surface
Cut out 12 circles with a fluted cutter, large enough to line each bun tin,
Press gently into each bun tin and fill with mince.
Cut out 12 slightly smaller circles for the lids using a plain cutter
Place over the mince, seal the edges, cut a slit in the top
and then brush lightly with milk. Chill for twenty minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC, 400ºF/Gas mark 6
Bake for twenty minutes until golden brown.
Remove and place on a wire rack to cool a little before serving
In his neat little, white painted, house at one end of the village of Trimble, Peter the friendly elf was looking through his cupboards. He had run out of his favourite honey biscuits and he was checking to see if he had all of the ingredients to make some more. To make sure he had them all he had written them down on a list was crossing them out as he found them.
And, oh dear, the most important one was missing, honey, and the one thing you cannot do without when making Honey Biscuits, is honey.
Slipping on his little blue Jacket he hurried next door to his friend Pod’s house, but Pod didn’t have any honey either. Next he tried nearly every house in the village, but no one had any honey. Now there was only one house to try and that was Kronk’s house.
Kronk was the meanest and most unfriendly old gnome you could meet, but Peter thought he would ask anyway. Kronk was busy putting a new lock on the gate to the apple tree – the apple tree really belong to the whole village, but Kronk had built a fence around it, put a lock on the gate and now kept all the apples for himself.
‘Good day, Mr Kronk,’ said Peter, ‘I was wondering if you might have a little honey to spare.’
Kronk gave Peter a mean look and said, ‘Honey? Do you really think that if I had any honey I would give it to you? If I had any honey, which I do not, I would keep it all for myself.’
Oh, thought Peter, he really is the meanest old gnome ever, but all he said was, ‘Thank you, Mr Kronk,’ and walked away.
Peter got up early the next morning, he was going to Dingle market for some honey and it was a long way. It way a lovely morning the birds were singing and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. On the way to the market Peter was carrying an empty basket and he skipped all the way there. But on the way back there was a heavy pot of honey in his basket and he was getting very tired. The day was hot, he was sweating and his little legs were aching by the time he reached the old oak tree at the edge of the village.
It was no good he just had to sit down and have a rest, placing the basket next to him; he sat with his back against the tree and before he knew it had nodded off. As soon as he was asleep Kronk who had been watching him from behind his hedge, crept out, grabbed the honey and scurried back into his garden. After looking around he decided to hide the pot of honey under an upturned flowerpot, ‘Hee, Hee,’ he cackled. ‘No one will find it there.’
Half an hour later Peter woke up, went to pick up his basket and found that his honey had been stolen. Who would have done such a thing, he looked around but there was no one about. Sadly, with his head bowed, he began to make his way home; there would be no honey biscuits today.
He was so sad that he was half way home before he realise someone was shouting his name. Turning he saw that it was his friend Pod. Peter wasn’t in the mood for talking but he couldn’t just walk away, so he waited for Pod to catch up.
‘I’m sorry Pod,’ Peter said when his friend reached him, ‘I’m not in the mood to talk, someone stole my honey when I was asleep.’
‘I know, said Pod. ‘I was on top of fairy hill and I saw who took it. It was that horrible gnome Kronk and he has hidden it under a flowerpot in his garden. Lets’ go and get it back.’
‘No, that won’t work,’ said Peter. ‘He’ll just laugh at us, besides he won’t let us in his garden. But I think I know how to get the honey back.’
Peter explained his plan to Pod then they went around talking to the villagers. The next morning when Kronk was in his garden, three of the villagers ran past carrying sacks, ‘What is going on?’ he called.’ But the villagers kept on running and soon disappeared over the hill. Shortly afterwards some more villagers ran past and the same thing happened. A little later he saw Pod running towards him, so he stepped out into the road with his arms outstretched and Pod had to stop, ‘What is going on?’ he demanded.
‘Nothing,’ said Pod.
‘Then why have you got that sack?’ asked Kronk.
‘Because the farmer at green meadow, over by Dingle, has a field of potatoes he can’t pick and if you take your own sack, he’ll let you fill it for free.’
At the mention of the word free, greedy old Kronk ran back into his garden, grabbed a sack and went racing up the road. As soon as he disappeared over the hill Peter came out from behind the oak tree and took his honey from under the flowerpot.
‘Come on Pod,’ he said. ‘Let’s go home and bake some Honey Biscuits.’
It took Kronk two hours to get to Dingle, only to find no farmer at green meadow and no free potatoes. Then it took him two hours to get back and wasn’t he surprised when he topped the hill to find all of the villagers sitting under the oak tree, having a picnic with lots of Honey Biscuits to eat.
The crocuses have been out for a couple of weeks, the daffodils along the roadsides are blooming, Easter is early and it’s a long time since you could get one hot cross bun for a penny never mind two. At Easter the family will gather together as it has done since I was a lad, nowadays the gathering takes place at our house. But back in the mists of time the clan used to gather at my mother’s house on Easter Sunday for tea. Apart from chocolate Easter eggs, the thing that I liked most about Easter was hot cross buns sliced through the middle and spread with best butter. Nowadays I am not fussed with the chocolate eggs, but I still loved a hot cross bun and despite the cries from the dieters in the family of, ‘You’ll never lose weight using butter, besides it’s not good for you.’ I still like mine spread with best butter.
Hot Cross Buns
1 oz of fresh yeast
3 oz of caster sugar
½ pint of tepid milk
1 lb of white flour
3 oz of unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon of powdered cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons of mixed spice
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs
3 oz of currants
2 oz of sultanas
1 oz of mixed peel
I packet of ready to roll short crust pastry (to make the cross)
only cut off the amount you need, wrap the rest and freeze
Switch on oven and allow to preheat, Gas 7, 425°F, 220°C
Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a little tepid milk.
Sift the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter, add cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice, a pinch of salt and the sugar, mix well.
Whisk eggs and add to the milk. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the yeast and most of the egg/milk. Mix until you have a soft dough. (You can add more of the egg/milk if you need too).
Leave for 2 to 3 minutes. Then knead until smooth. Add mixed peel, sultanas, and currants, knead until dough is shiny, cover dough place in a warm place and allow to rise until it is double the size.
Knock back risen dough by kneading on a floured board and allow to rest for a few minutes.
Shape the dough into twelve buns, place on a baking sheet and brush with a little egg wash. (Egg yoke mixed with a little sugar and milk) mark each bun with a cross.
Roll out short crust pastry, cut into 24 narrow strips, place strips on buns to form crosses, allow to rise, then brush again with egg wash.
Bake buns in preheated oven for five minutes, then reduce heat to Gas 6, 400°F, 200ºC and bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Malcolm and Ann, despite having their Spanish bus passes and living the life of sun, sea and sangria, are still typical Geordie’s at heart. Both are fanatical supporters of The Toon, and of course England.
Since Saturday was England v Portugal, Ann suggested that we all come to hers to watch the match. All, being myself, my wife, also Ann, the grand dame Elizabeth, my mother in-law, our neighbour Jimmy – a Yorkshire man hailing from Richmond – and the two girls, Emily and Samantha who were staying with him for a holiday.
The evening began well; Malcolm’s flag that hung from the balcony flapped in the evening breeze like some great crusaders pennant, the drinks were poured; the air-conditioning turned up and I will make no comment on a match that everyone of you knows ended with Portugal winning the penalty shoot out.
Needless to say, it was a sombre, if not sober party that made their way out on the balcony. However Ann trooper that she is – how she managed to slave over a hot stove when it was 42C in the shade I will never know – saved the evening by producing a delightfully array of home cooked food.
The drinks flowed the food was consumed and the mood lightened, then as we rounded off the night with tea and coffee, Ann produced a delicious cake, the recipe is reproduced below.
If this is not a truly international cake, nothing is, ‘Dublin Tea Loaf ’ baked on the Costa Blanca by an expat Geordie, to a recipe from the Whitburn Colliery, Thorpe Thewles branch, of the Durham County Federation of Women’s Institutes.
My father used to sometimes cook breakfast on a Sunday morning and his idea of a good start to the day was the great British fry up. Bacon, sausage, black pudding, egg, beans or tomatoes and a slice of crispy fried bread. Full of calories I know but it smelt and tasted great and we loved it.
Now and again, and it was now and again, because he would sooner be at the pub playing darts, he made Sunday lunch. But his speciality in the kitchen and the only other thing I remember him making – apart from him once making ice cream. But that’s another story – was a favourite of my brother’s and mine.
It was jam sandwiches in batter. I know it sounds a bit weird, but believe it or not they really are very nice. They’re easy to make so why not have a go.
Jam Sandwiches In Batter
Ingredients for Batter
2 oz of plain flour
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of salad oil
4 tablespoons warm water
1 egg white
Slices of thin white bread
Oil for frying
Sift flour and salt into a basin, make a well in the centre and add half the water.
Beat well and then gradually beat in the rest of the water
Cut the crusts off the bread, make your sandwiches and cut into triangles.
Whisk the egg white until stiff and fold into the batter mixture
Dip sandwiches into the batter and then fry in hot oil until brown
Remove from pan lay on a piece of kitchen roll to drain and the sprinkle with a little caster sugar.
‘You’ll be looking forward to the feast tomorrow, Father,’ said Edgar
Edgar always calls me father and I put up with it; it’s better than priest, God knows I’m no holier than thou priest; I’m just an old warrior, who found his God late on in life and joined a monastery, where I’m known as brother Osbert.
‘Aye, it’ll be the last chance to have a good feed before the fasting begins.’
Not that it will be much more than simple fare, just the meagre supplies that the good people of Chippenham have managed to hide from Guthrum’s men and of course the traditional pancakes to use up the fat, butter and eggs that are prohibited during lent. But then anything will taste better than the fish and eels we’d had to eat at ever meal, while we were in the swamps of Athelney.
Nigh on two months we spent camped there, while Alfred gathered his scattered force. Then when the swamp could hold no more, we burst out to drive the Vikings back beyond Chippenham. That was yesterday and here we shall stay, for the holy days are upon us and there will be no more fighting until Easter has passed.
‘I don’t suppose there’s a chance of meat, to go with tomorrows pancakes?’ I ask, hopefully.
Tomorrow is shriving day and when the bell rings, Alfred insists that we all attend church to be shriven of our sins before Lent. And the day after tomorrow we all shall fast, of that there is nothing surer. For we are followers of King Alfred and the King is a pious man, who adheres strictly to the teachings of the church and expects us to follow suit.
‘I’ve sent Aldric and the men to scour the country, who knows, they may be lucky and find a boar, Father.’
‘I’ll pray to Saint Guthlac for success, I do like a nice piece of pork.’
Mind you, if they do catch a boar, by the time it’s shared with Edgar’s sworn men and their women, the portions are going to be small. Still we can fill up with pancakes, there’s always plenty of those on Shrive Tuesday.
Recipe for Pancakes.
Makes about 14.
4oz plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
½ pint of milk
1 Place flour and salt in a basin and make a well in the middle.
2 drop in egg, gradually mix in half of the milk,
3 beat well until bubbles show,
4Gradualy beat in remainder of the milk,
5 Heat a small frying pan and add a knob of lard,
melt and spread around pan.
6 Pour in a little batter and tilt pan so that it covers bottom.
7 when golden toss or turn over to cook the other side.
On Friday my youngest grandchild came to stay overnight. Katie is six, going on twenty-six and a lovely and loving child. She is bright as a button and full of energy, as they all are at that age. Unfortunately while her Grandma is for cuddling, her Granddad is her elected play pal. Not that I really mind, it can be and is very rewarding. But it is also exhausting, not physically but mentally. She is so energetic that you get tired just watching her, never mind joining in the games.
At the moment Katie is having swimming lessons after school and then after tea, my daughter Clare brings her over to ours. Inevitable Katie comes bounding into the kitchen with big smiled on her face and after giving us a hug says, ‘Will you watch a DVD with me Granddad?’
I generally reply, ‘Yes, when I finish my cup of coffee.’
Mollified for the moment, she tells us about her swimming and then before I have managed to get half of my coffee drunk, ‘Can we watch the DVD now Granddad?’
‘In a minute, I’ve nearly finished. What are we going to watch anyway?’
‘Oh, is it about painting?’ I ask.
‘No Granddad,’ she explains as if to a child. ‘It is about a beautiful mermaid.’
All Katie’s DVD’s are about beautiful mermaids or princesses. I finish my coffee, put the DVD in the player and we settle back on the settee in the lounge to watch Aquamarina. This is the easy part but it won’t last long. Five minutes into the film. ‘Granddad I’m hungry and thirsty too.’
‘Go and ask Grandma what you can have.’
I sit watching the mermaid film on my own until she returns with one of those lunch boxes in one hand – you know, the one’s, little slices of ham and cheese with little biscuits to put them on – and a purple Fruit Shoot in the other.
Ten minute later she jumps up and dances around to the music on the DVD. After a few minutes of this she decides to show me the new moves she has learnt at her cheerleading class. By now the DVD is forgotten and she wants me to play X Factor. I switch the DVD off and settle back down on the settee. The game goes as follows, Katie goes behind the bookcase under the stairs and then walks out to the centre of the floor and I have to say, ‘Hello, what is your name?’
Katie sings, she has a nice little voice, makes up the words as she goes and the songs sound very Disney like. I clap, whistle and stamp my feet when she finishes and she takes a little bow. Now I have to be all three judges and vote for her to go on to the next round. This game goes on for another three quarters of an hour with Katie taking the part of different singers and dancers before she becomes bored.
Next she calls her Grandma in and we play schools, Katie is the teacher, Grandma is the good little girl and Granddad is the cheeky boy who gets sent to the naughty corner. Katie always starts the game the same way. ‘Today children we are going to…’
Half an hour later she is looking for something else to do, She decides that she would like to draw and colour in. I get the paper and pencils go to the bookcase and take out, ‘The World Of Beatrix Potter Treasury’ and we draw and colour in Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-duck and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.
After an hour or so of this Grandma decides it is time for bed, but Katie begs us to play just one more game before she goes. We have recently introduced her to dominoes and she loves it. After six games, she and Grandma go up to bed and I am left to tidy up. I used to go up and read her a bedtime story, but she says that she is a big girl now and she takes her own book to bed with her.
By eight thirty on Saturday morning Katie is up and raring to go. We have a couple of games of ‘Where is Tinker bell?’ before breakfast and after breakfast we go into the garden to check how her plants are doing. Back indoors she asks what we can do next and after checking the cupboards I suggest we make toffee cakes. My wife Ann is not pleased; she hates me messing up the kitchen. I tell Katie what we need, butter, sugar, vinegar and treacle and she get them from the cupboards. Taking down a pan I stand her on a chair and let her put in all the ingredients. She is not allowed near the stove, so while the toffee is bubbling in the pan I get her to grease the bun tins with a little butter. When the toffee is ready I test it in water and then pour it into the bun tins and place the tins on the windowsill to cool. (I used a twelve-bun tin and filled each just over half way).
While I clean the pan and the spoons, Katie puts the ingredients back into the cupboards. Once the toffee has cooled I give Katie a small cake box and just as she finishes filling it with toffee cakes her Mum arrives to take her home. When she leaves she gives us a kiss and a cuddle, says goodbye and I can’t help wondering what she will have me doing next weekend.
Do you remember when your mother and probably your friends mothers as well, had a ginger beer plant in the pantry? If you do congratulations, you can now travel anywhere you like in England with your free bus pass.
If you aren’t one of us in the know, you will be wondering what on earth I am talking about. Strictly speaking a ginger beer plant isn’t what we think of when we imagine a plant. It has neither root nor branch and you can’t buy one at a garden centre. At least not at any garden centre that I have heard of. I shall endeavour to explain. A ginger beer plant is yeast, water, a little sugar and a little ginger in a jar that if you feed for seven days will form the basis for a gallon (4.5 litres) of delicious home made ginger beer.
Ginger Beer originated in England in the mid 1700’s. Up until 1835 ginger beer had been brewed and consumed locally. But with the introduction of an improved Bristol Glaze, it could be poured into glazed stoneware bottles, suitably corked, and safely exported all over the world.
Your Ginger Beer Plant.
½ oz of dried yeast
½ a pint of water
The juice of two lemons
Put yeast, water, 2 level teaspoons of sugar, 2 level teaspoons of ginger into a jar and mix together.
Cover jar with a sheet of polythene, held in place by an elastic band.
Each day for the next 7 days, add 1 level teaspoon of sugar and 1 level teaspoon of ginger.
Strain the mixture through a piece of muslin and add the lemon juice to the liquid.
(Keep the sediment to one side, it can be used again; see bottom)
You are now ready to make your Ginger Beer. But please follow the instructions carefully so as not to be at risk of bursting bottles and flying glass.
Sweet Still Ginger Beer.
The juice from the plant
1 lb of sugar
1 pint of water
Put all of the ingredients into a pan and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes, to kill the yeast.
Make up to 1 gallon with cold water.
Bottle the ginger beer and cork tightly. Keep for a few days before drinking.
Dry Sparkling Ginger Beer.
The juice from your plant
2 oz of sugar
Add sugar to your juice and make up to 1 gallon with cold water, stir to dissolve the sugar.
Pour into screw cap bottles making sure the caps a screwed tight. Keep for 7 to 10 days when the ginger beer will be sparkling and ready to drink.
(Split the sediment you have left in the muslin into two jars. You now have another two ginger beer plants. I would suggest that you give one away. You can now start again by adding ½ pint of water, 2 level teaspoons of sugar, 2 level teaspoons of ginger and carry on as before for the 7 days).
The crocuses are out; we change to British summer time at the end of March, Easter is just around the corner and they say that this summer will be a good one. I don’t know who they are, but let’s hope they are right. I don’t know about you? But I could do with shrugging off the dark days of winter and feeling a bit of sunshine on my skin.
Sunshine, barbeques and picnics on warm sunny days would be just the job and what better to go with either than homemade lemonade or orangeade, chilled and straight from the fridge or thermos. Come to think of it, we don’t really need the sunshine - though it would be bonus - if we make our own orange or lemonade, we can enjoy a refreshing drink whatever the weather.
1 oz of sugar
2 pints of water
Peel off the rind of one orange,
only the rind and not the white pith.
Use a potato peeler or a zester to do this
Place the orange rind in a jug
Add 1 oz of sugar to 2 pints of boiling water
And pour over the orange rind
Cover the jug and leave overnight.
Then Strain and chill.
Squeeze the juice from the oranges
place in the fridge to chill.
Mix the juice with the rind water and serve iced.
Will make 6 to 8 glasses.
8 oz of caster sugar
4 pints of water
Remove rind using a zester or potato peeler
Put rind in a large jug
Boil the water, add the sugar to the water
And pour water over the rind
Cover jug a and leave overnight
Squeeze juice from lemons put into a container
And chill in the fridge
The next day add the lemon juice to the to the rind water
I often wonder if anyone goes blackberry picking these days, I like to think there must be some who still do. I know that children now think that blackberries come neatly packaged in clear plastic boxes from the fruit shop, but they don’t have to. Not when there are loads of blackberry brambles out in the countryside and you can enjoy a family outing out on a fine autumn day, picking the sweet black fruits for free.
Blackberries ripen in September and October and when I was a lad my brother and I would pester mum for a couple of empty jam jars and set off for our favourite patch of brambles to pick blackberries. Later when the jars were full we would return home, covered in scratches from the brambles, with our mouths and fingers stained red and by the time we’d manage to scrub off the stains, mum would already have started on a pie.
Mix flour and salt in bowl, cut margarine and lard into small cubes, place in bowl and rub between fingers until the mixture feel like breadcrumbs, stir with a round-ended knife until it begins to bind, then knead it lightly with your hands until becomes dough, allow to rest for ten minutes.
1 lb blackberries
2 tablespoons of sugar
Take an enamel soup plate with a rim, roll out half of the pastry and line the plate with it including the rim, fill with black berries and sprinkle on the sugar.
Roll out the rest of the pastry to make the lid, brush the pastry rim with water, cover with lid, crimp the edges with a fork, cut 2 small slits in the lid, brush lid with water and sprinkle with a little sugar.
In The village of Trimble, at the end of the street, in dirty old house, lived a grumpy gnome called Kronk. He was mean, miserly, and the unfriendliest old gnome you ever did see.
At the other end of the village, lived an elf called Peter. He was one the friendliest elves you could ever meet and he lived in a neat little, white painted, house.
One day as Peter was passing by, he noticed that the apple tree in the field at the end of the lane was full of fruit. Now the tree really belonged to everyone in the village, but miserly old Kronk had claimed it for himself, built a fence around it and padlocked the gate. Peter sighed, he really would like an apple pie and he knew the other villager would like one too.
So on his way back home he opened Kronk’s gate walked up the path and knocked on the door. A few moments later the door opened and Kronk growled, ‘What do, you want?’
‘Excuse me, Mr Kronk I noticed your tree was full of apples, and I wondered if you might let me have one or two.’
‘No, go away, elf, I’ll be picking them all tomorrow and taking them to the market,’ said Kronk.
It wasn’t fair, thought Peter, as he walked home, those apples really belonged to everyone, I’ll have to think of a way to get some for the whole village.
Early next morning when Kronk was picking the apples and placing them in a sack, Peter turned up and offered to help.
‘You can help if you want, but I’m not giving you any apples,’ said Kronk.
Oh, he is greedy, thought Peter, but he smiled and said, ‘That’s alright, I’ll still help you.’
They had only picked three-quarters the apples and Kronk’s sack was full, so Peter went to get him a bigger one from home.
When he arrived back, Kronk inspected the sack carefully in case Peter was trying to trick him. When he found nothing wrong he poured the other apple in and threw away the old sack. Later when there were no more apples on the tree and the big sack was full, Peter helped lift it on Kronk’s back and as he did so, he cut a slit in the bottom.
Peter waited until Kronk set off for the market, then picking up the other sack; he followed behind, picking up the apples as they fell out one by one. Once the sack was full he went around the village sharing them out.
Imagine Kronk’s surprise when he got to the market and there were only a few apples in the sack, and imagine the big surprise he got, when he came back to find the village filled with the aroma of freshly baked apple pies.
If you too would like to smell the pies, why not try the recipe below.
Pastry Mix flour and salt, rub in lard and butter and mix to a firm dough with the water. Allow it to rest while you see to the filling.
1½ lb cooking apples
2 table spoons sugar
1 table spoon cornflour
Pie dish, 7 inch diameter, 1¼ inches deep.
Peel, core and slice your apple
place a good layer in the bottom of the pie dish (approx half the apple)
Mix sugar and cornflour together, sprinkle over the apple in the dish,
then cover with the rest of the apple.
Using a floured board roll out the pastry until it is half an inch bigger than the pie dish. Cut a ½ inch wide circular strip from the out side of the pastry, damp the edges of the pie dish and press the pastry strip on.
Next damp the strip, place the pastry lid on, press to seal, and trim around. Flute edges using the back of a fork. Cut 3 small slits on top of the pastry lid, brush with water and sprinkle on a little sugar.
Bake in a oven Gas mark 6 /400°F – 200°C for 30 minutes, reduce heat to Gas 4/ 350°F 180°C for a little longer until fruit is cooked. To check use a skewer through one of the slits
You've carved out the pumpkin, (putting the flesh to one side) cut out the eyes,nose and learing mouth of your pumpkin lantern. You've followed the recipe and made some delicious pumpkin soup. Now if you have pumpkin flesh left over after that, why not give them another treat and make a pumpkin pie. If you have no flesh left why not carve another lantern then you'll have plenty.
6oz of shortcrust pastry
1¼ lb of pumpkin
5 tablespoons of caster sugar
¼ pint of milk
a pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon of ground ginger
¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
Roll out the pastry and use it to line a 7inch flan tin
Place your pumpkin into a pan of boiling water, bring back to the boil reduce the heat slightly and cook until the pumpkin is soft (about 15 minutes should do it)
When cooked strain and mash well, add a little of the water, should make about half a pint of puree.
Separate the two eggs
Add the egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of sugar to the puree and mix in
Next beat in the milk, salt and spices.
Pour into the pastry case.
Bake in a preheated oven 200ºC, 400ºF, Gas mark 6 for 40 minutes or until filling is set and golden brown
Whisk the two egg whites until stiff, fold in the last 2 tablespoons of sugar and spread over the top of the filling
Return the dish to the oven, switch the oven off and leave to brown lightly.
As a lad one of my favourite Puddings – I say one of, because I had many favourites – was ‘Spotted Dick’ a sweet, steamed suet pudding with currants and raisins that is served with lashings of custard.
This sweet treat has been around for a long time. The earliest recipe comes from 1847, but where did it get its name? Someone has suggested the theory that Pudding became Puddink, from there it became Puddick and then simply Dick. There are other theories, even one relating ‘Spotted Dick’ to ‘Spotted Dog’ (another version of the pudding) and then to Dalmatians as they are spotted too. Wherever the name came from, it has been changed at least once.
A BBC news article from the 10th of September 2002 reported that the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust had put the name ‘Spotted Dick’ back on the menu. The name had previously been changed to ‘Spotted Richard’ in the mistaken belief that patients might have felt uncomfortable having to order Spotted Dick. Snippets like this may be interesting, but wherever the name came from, the pud is still good, as far as I’m concerned. If you haven’t tried it why don’t you give it a go, it really is a sweet treat.
8 oz of self-raising flour
6 oz of suet
Pinch of salt
1 oz of caster sugar
6 oz breadcrumbs (white)
2 oz of currants
2 oz of seedless raisins
5 to 8 tablespoons of milk
Mix salt, suet, currants, raisins, breadcrumbs and flour together
Mixing with a fork add milk gradually until the mixture binds together.
Knead until the dough is slightly sticky
Roll dough into a cylinder
Wrap in a single layer of foil that has been brushed with butter and seal
(My mother used to wrap her pudding in a cloth to steam it, but these days it is easier to use foil)
If you haven’t got a half penny then God bless you
We might not have half pennies anymore and the preference nowadays is for turkey rather than goose, but one thing in the old rhyme is certainly true, Christmas is coming and it will be here before you know it. So why not get the Christmas pudding made now, it will keep, and all you need to do steam it on Christmas morning.
8oz 0f golden caster sugar
4oz of suet
16 oz of mixed fruit including candied peel
4oz of plain flour
4oz of white breadcrumbs (fresh)
2oz of flaked almonds
The zest of 1 lemon
3 beaten eggs
1 level teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 level teaspoon of mixed spice
1 level teaspoon of grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of brandy
Lightly grease a 2 pint pudding basin
Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl
Stir in the eggs and the brandy and mix well
Spoon the mixture into the basin
Cover top of basin with baking parchment, then foil and tie into place
(If you tie a string across the top as well, it will help you lift the basin out of the pan)
Place basin in a steamer of boiling water and cover with a lid, boil for 6 hours, remember to top up water with more boiling water from time to time. Water must be boiling all the time.
(If you haven’t got a steamer, place a saucer upside down in the bottom of a large pan and stand the basin on top of the saucer. pour boiling water into the pan until it comes a third of the way up the side of the pudding basin. Cover with lid and steam as above for 6 hours.) Water must be boiling all the time.
Leave to cool, remove parchment and foil, replace with new, tie up again and store in a cool place.
On Christmas day steam for 2 hours and serve with custard or brandy sauce.
Considered by the government to be a luxury item; the importation of bananas were banned for the duration of World War II and didn’t return to the northeast of England until 1945. However they were still pretty scarce then and the queues were miles long.
So it wasn’t until 1950 when I was eight years old that I tasted my first banana and it was fantastic. (it is hard to imagine never having tasted a fruit that is so common place nowadays but in those days an orange was the only foreign fruit that war time children had ever tasted).
In those days we were happy to just peel and eat that wonderful fruit as it was. But then as the banana became commonplace we began to enjoy it in different ways, banana split with ice cream, Bananas baked and served with custard banana fritters and later on toffee bananas and more.
2 oz of plain flour
Pinch of salt
3 teaspoons of icing sugar
2 tablespoons of warm water
2 teaspoons of butter (melted)
The white of one egg
4 medium bananas
Oil for frying
Mix flour and salt in a bowl, add icing sugar
Mix with water and butter to thick and smooth batter
Whisk egg white until stiff then fold into the batter
Half the bananas lengthways
Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer until smoking hot
Dip each half banana in batter and fry until golden
Jam roly poly is a well remembered childhood favourite of many. This warm, filling and economical pudding is just grand on a cold winter's night, especially if eaten with a good dollop of custard, or if you prefer, some ice-cream, or cream.
6oz of plain flour
3oz of suet
1 level teaspoon of salt
1 level tablespoon of baking powder
Water to mix
Custard, ice-cream or cream
Add the baking powder to the flour
Add the suet and rub in
Add enough water to make a stiff dough
Roll out to a oblong shape
Spread with jam
Wet edges and roll up
You now have two choices
1 You can tie in a clean cloth and boil for 1 ½ hours
2 You can place in a baking tin and bake in a the oven 350 F, 180 C, Gas mark 5 for approx ½ an hour
During World War II imports into Britain dropped by a half due to the threat and actual attacks by German U-boats. In an effort to alleviate the shortages the British Government encouraged the people to dig for victory, and with that call in mind, lawns and flowerbeds were turned over to the planting and growing of vegetables. Chicken sheds and runs were built in back gardens and some even formed clubs and kept pigs that were fed on kitchen waste.
To make the most beneficial use and fair distribution of such limited resources the Government introduced the Rationing in the form of a Ration Book that was available to every household that registered. In addition the Ministry of Food produced loads of instruction leaflets containing healthy and nutritious recipes to make the most of the war time rations.
You will find one of those recipes below (it may seem a bit unusual but it is very cheap and easy to make, and it tastes nice too) Why not try it for yourself.
The Romans imported food into Rome from many parts of their empire and much of it was pickled in brine, vinegar, and oil, to preserve it throughout the journey. In medieval times the cooks in England – possibly having learned the art from their former conquerors – pickled surplus produce. This was used to provide a valuable source of food and vitamins during the harsh winter months when very little fresh produce would have been available.
My foray into pickling came about because I had a surplus of produce. Unlike the Medieval cooks, I didn’t need to pickle to feed us through the winter – we had a couple of perfectly good supermarkets nearby, for that – but I did need to use up a constantly replenished surplus of eggs.
How did I get this seemingly never-ending supply of eggs? Simple really. I had at that time, two young grandchildren and since I had plenty room in the paddock I decided to buy some chickens. I thought the kids would like them and as a bonus we would eventually get some eggs.
Having made the decision, I set to work building a portable henhouse. Four and a half 8ft by 4 ft sheets of exterior plywood and some 2” by 2” timber made an 8 ft long A frame henhouse (in the shape of a steeply sided tent) with a drop down door at one end, some nest boxes at the other and broom shanks inside for perches. I also fitted handles at each end so that two of us could move it to a new location now and then – As per normal no one ever seemed to be about when it needed to be moved and I had to drag it myself. In addition to the henhouse I made a wire mesh chicken run, also portable, to attach to one end.
Now all I needed were the little fluffy yellow chickens. A couple of days later I was on my way to Doncaster when I saw a hand written sign advertising pullets for sale. Pullets to my mind were young birds; hence they were what I was after. Wrong. Parking the car I walked back, the sign was fastened to the fence of some allotments. The place I wanted was right at the back, beyond all the vegetable plots and consisted of several long sheds filled with literally hundreds of 15-week-old, point of lay pullets. They weren’t what I wanted, but when I found out that they had been bred to sell on to a battery farm, I decided buy ten, not many I know, but my henhouse wasn’t that big and at least those few would live a better life.
They might not have been little fluffy chicks but the kids thought they were brilliant and really loved to help with the feeding and egg collection. It was two weeks before the first egg arrived but after that they really got into swing off it and before long we were collecting between ten and twenty eggs a day, seven days a week. We ate an awful lot, gave a lot away and since we still had a surplus I decided to pickle them. If you have surplus eggs or you just like the taste of pickled eggs, why not try out the recipe below.
I'm not by any means a gardener, but I do love my grandchildren and when they clamoured to buy some seeds, I let them pick one packet each. Chloe the eldest picked a packet of mixed flowers, and I reckoned I could cope with them. But the youngest Bethany was going through one of those phases that children go through. She had taken to eating tomatoes, as if they were apples, she couldn't get enough of them.
Yes, that's Right. You've guessed it. She picked a packet of tomato seeds. Glory be, what was I to do now, as far as I was aware you needed a greenhouse in these northern climes, to grow tomatoes. I tried to talk her out of it, but she was having none of it.
'You said I could pick my own seeds, Grandad,' she cried.
'Yes, but I don't think you can grow them without a greenhouse.' I said.
'Because, they don't like the cold.'
'But it's not cold, Grandad, it's nice and warm.'
'I don't mean just today, I mean in general.'
'What's in general?'
'It means...em... it's cold most days.'
'That's alright then, we'll plant them today while it's warm.'
I gave in then, thinking, we'll plant the seeds today and she'll eventually forget all about them.
I paid for the seeds, a pack of plant pots, a bag of compost, and lugged them home on the bus. After getting off the bus the girls ran ahead, leaving me to hump the compost and plant pots. Reaching the house and since my hands were full, I pushed the door open with my foot and was just in time to hear the little one say, 'And, Grandma, Grandad's coming with the pots and the compy stuff and we're going to plant the seeds straight away.'
'Hold it, hold it,' I said as I staggered through the door, 'before Grandad does anything, he's going to have a nice cup of tea.'
'Aw, Grandad,' she said.
But she waited, after a fashion, humming a hawing, until I had a cup of tea, and then she dragged me out into the garden.
Opening the bag of compost I filled six pots for Chloe and let her plant her own flower seeds, then help Bethany with her tomato seeds. Now all we could do was wait.
The weather was mild so it should have been, since it was May and we were far too late for planting tomato seeds. Two weeks went by and the flowers started to show, but there was no sign of the tomatoes. Another two week went by and just when I'd given up. Bethany came racing indoors, all excited.
'Come and look Grandad, they are growing.'
And sure enough the tomatoes were showing, but I didn't hold out much hope for the crop. Anyway as soon as the plants were big enough I transplanted them into a couple of grow bags and they took off, like Jack's magic beanstalk.
It's now the 30th of September, the plants are 5ft high, filled with tomatoes, and are still flowering. Bethany is over the moon and is looking forward to picking her first fruit, or should I say vegetable? But as we slide into October, no way on earth are they going to ripen and to save her disappointment I decided after consultation with the Grand Dame, my mother in-law, to turn them into chutney. See the recipe below. By the way, Chloe's flowers bloomed, though they are nearly finished now.
Cut up tomatoes, peel, core, and cut up apples, cut up onions and chop raisins.
Bruise ginger and tie in muslin bag.
Place all ingredients into pan, bring to boil and simmer until vinegar has been absorbed. (Approx 2 hours) At this point you should be able to draw a wooden spoon across the mixture and it will leave an impression.
Remove the bag of ginger, pour chutney into hot dry screw-top jars and place waxed discs on top of each one.
Cover jars with a clean cloth until cold.
Screw on lids (Make sure they are vinegar proof first) label and store in a cool cupboard.
Marrows are easy to grow, but as far as taste goes rather bland and tend to be stuffed, whole or in rings, with various filling - I like mine peeled, deseeded, cut into slices and fried with my breakfast bacon and eggs.
However being so easy to grow and having cooked and eaten them every which way my mum tended to use the last of the crop to make a rather nice chutney. This recipe will fill approx 4 x 1lb jars
1lb of marrow (weight after peeling and deseeding)
1lb of tomatoes
½ lb of onions
1 tablespoon of pickling spice
1teaspoon of ground ginger
½ lb sultanas
¾ lb of brown sugar
½ pint of malt vinegar
Cut marrow into small cubes
Tomatoes, skin and cut into approx eight pieces
Chop onions into small pieces
Place all the ingredients into a saucepan over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved
Simmer for approx an hour, stirring occasionally until thickens (to check thickness press down with a spoon, when the depression does not fill with excess liquid
Wash Jars and place into a cool oven to warm and dry (225° F, 110° C)
Pour hot chutney into warmed jars, lay round waxed tissue on top, waxed side down to seal the surface.
Once the chutney is cold put on vinegar proof lids, stick on name and date labels and store in a cool dark cupboard.